Review: Someone to Care

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Someone to CareSomeone to Care (Westcott, #4) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #4
Published by Berkley on May 1, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved this serious and mature romance between two people in their forties getting a second chance at a love that was impossible before. Balogh is a marvel at these slow developing love stories.

THE STORY: Two years after the death of the Earl of Riverdale, his family has adjusted to their changed circumstances. Except that at what should be a joyful moment, the woman who was unhappily “married” for over twenty years only to find out her marriage was illegal feels everything overwhelming her. Viola flees her family and friends intending to return home. On the way, however, she meets Marcel Lamarr. Years ago, the two had a flirtation that Viola would not pursue because she was married. Marcel is a rake, but when the two meet again, Marcel intends to finally get the woman who got away.

OPINION: I loved this book. I loved that Marc and Viola are mature characters compared to the normal heroes and heroines in historicals. They are in their early 40s and its nice to see that their story isn’t locked into a typical mature story.

Marc and Viola demonstrate that even when having adult children, a person can want to escape, to be alive and have passion and even a bit irresponsible. Even more interesting to me, these characters have pasts filled with mistakes. And their romance doesn’t go smoothly at all.

Marc is a man running from his responsibilities. He was devastated by the death of his wife, he removed himself from his children and instead lived a life of a irresponsible rake. Afraid of love, filled with grief and guilt, Marc doesn’t know how to connect to the very thing he truly wants.

Viola did everything she was supposed to do. She obeyed her father when he contracted a marriage for her. She was faithful to a man who gave nothing to her but children. Always proper, always respectable, she was horribly betrayed when she discovered that her husband was actually a bigamist and she was no wife at all.

A chance encounter between the two and the memory of the time years ago when they felt an attraction to one another brings Marc and Viola together. Viola is willing to throw off all the years of being responsible. Balance would require that eventually Marc but toss off all the years of being irresponsible. The question for most of the book is whether the two can find their way to balance.

I loved these two. Their journey is serious and takes time. I really love the Balogh romances which allow the characters time to breathe in their relationship. The story has an interesting balance where there is an initial and hot part and then the growth and chance for these characters is allowed to take the time it needs to be real and lasting.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book turns the events of the “normal” romance novel on their head with things happening in a different order than I normally expect.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SOMEONE TO CARE is the fourth book in the Westcott series. The romance is self-contained, but I believe the book is better having read the others in the series because it gives understanding to Viola’s state of mind.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Someone to Wed

Review: Someone to WedSomeone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #3
Published by Berkley on November 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“I am twenty-nine years old, very nearly thirty, and I would like . . . someone to wed. In my own person I am not marriageable, but I do have money. And you do not.”

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely lovely story. This is my favorite of the series so far as the heroine and hero have such a wonderfully adult relationship. Wren is a woman who has been damaged by her past and Alex recognizes and eventually comes to embrace and finally help her free herself.

THE STORY: Alexander Westcott unexpectedly becomes the Earl of Riverdale when his cousins are found to be illegitimate, but while he gets the title and the entailed estates, he doesn’t inherit any money needed to maintain the properties. As such, he finds himself needing to marry an heiress. Wren Heyden has been a recluse for most of her life, but upon the death of her aunt and uncle wants marriage and children no matter how unlikely. Knowing that she can never hope to obtain a husband in the usual manner, she decides the buy a husband. Propositioning Alex, Wren is surprised that Alex will not agree unless there is something more than money between them. Getting to know and build at least respect and care between them challenges them both.

OPINION: Sometimes there are books that I just fall into. As I read, everything just acts to pull me into the story and I am surprised when the book ends. This was one of those books. There was nothing particularly dramatic, but word by word, page by page, I became absorbed in Alex and Wren’s story.

The story asks for a commitment from the reader as the romance between these two isn’t love at first site, but rather a slow building of the connections and emotions and eventually great love between these two. This book is the example of how two strangers fall deeply in love.

Alex is a wonderful hero. While surprise inheritance of the title is something that most people would be rejoicing, Alex keenly feels the family pain which caused his inheritance but also the new responsibilities that he has acquired. He is a man who cares and while he knows that his marital choices are limited because he must marry a a fortune, he is unwilling to be mercenary and just be concerned about money. I also greatly admire that he is unwilling to lie to Wren. He is compassionate but also he it truthful about her issues.

Wren is a heroine that I loved. Despite the great pain in her past and her conviction that her appearance makes her unworthy of having a “normal” life, she has managed to be successful and build a life for herself. Her interactions with Alex begin to break her out of her protective shell. Alex recognizes almost immediately that she is walled off in pain when they first meet and that repels him. But her willingness to take chances both brings her closer to Alex and also her dreams.

One other thing I really liked about this story is the “deep secret” from Wren’s childhood is not what is commonly used in romance novels. Both more heartbreaking and also something different.

There was nothing I didn’t like about this book except that it ended. I feel more and more in love with this story as it developed. This is a book I look forward to reading again.

WORTH MENTIONING: I can’t wait until the next book because Balogh is fabulous at mature adult romances.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SOMEONE TO WED is the third book in the Westcott series. This book has overlapping characters, but this book can be read on its own. I think it is better to read the other books first, but this story is really self-contained.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Someone to Hold

Review: Someone to HoldSomeone to Hold (Westcott, #2) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #2
Published by Berkley Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 379
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Mary Balogh never shies away from difficult romances. With a heroine who is unsympathetic in the first book in the series, I was amazed that I, like the hero, was able to see both sides of the story and fall in love.

THE STORY: Camille Westcott’s world has fallen apart. It has been revealed that her father entered into a bigamous marriage with her mother and although raised as Lady Camille, it turns out that Camilla and her brother and sister are illegitimate and that Camilla has a legitimate older sister who unexpectedly inherits. This turn of fortune has left Camille not knowing who she is and who she will be. Residing in Bath with her grandmother, Camille decides to take a job as a teacher at the orphanage where her sister had been raised and herself was a teacher. At the orphanage, Camille meets Joel Cunningham, a dear friend of Camille’s older sister and a man inclined to dislike the cold Camille. Joel, however, discovers that there are two sides to every story and that Camille is a woman with many facets.

OPINION: Balogh has a wonderful way of taking flawed human characters and allowing the readers to understand and love them. Camille is a character that appears cold and haughty and just so nasty in the first book. This book takes its time revealing her character (as Joel discovers her) and allowing everyone to understand her actions and also to allow her to grow and change. This book, like many others written by Balogh, challenge the readers to fall in love with the characters. There is a call for understanding and compassion for the imperfection of the human spirit.

Joel is a man who is confounded to realize that as the story progresses he can sympathize with both his old friend and Camille — even as Camille and her sister are in conflict. If he can understand and fall for Camille, who is the reader to hold her prior behavior against her? Joel has his own journey in this book as he grew up in the orphanage and is ignorant of his origins. His discovers serve as a counterpoint to Camille’s own journey.

Readers who have explored Balogh’s books before will find familiar ground. There are no huge dramatic moments in this book. This is a deliberate journey through the self-discovery of the main characters. The intense focus on the personal allows the reader to truly understand these characters.

I started out not expecting to like this book (one reason that I delayed for months in reading it), but I ended up really enjoying these characters and their journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love all the characters in the Westcott series. We get to see just about everyone and get an update on what is going on in their lives.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SOMEONE TO HOLD is the second book in the Westcott series. While the romance is self-contained in this book, I think the relationships between all the relevant characters is better understood if the first book in the series is read first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Someone to Love

Review: Someone to LoveSomeone to Love (Westcott, #1) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #1
Published by Signet on November 8th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable slow burn romance.  The hero is such a kind person and his connection with the heroine lacks unnecessary drama.  I liked that these are truly kind people.

THE STORY:  Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage knowing nothing about her parents. Then she discovers that her father was actually the Earl of Riverdale, who recently died.  Even more surprising, it is revealed that Anna was actually the earl’s only legitimate offspring due to a hidden marriage and that his “legitimate” children are not legitimate at all.  Anna has inherited the entire estate of her father much to the dismay of her half-siblings.  Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, is a relative by marriage to the Westcotts who are in disarray after the revelations regarding Anna.  Avery is intrigued by Anna and her evolution to a lady.

OPINION:  I am a big fan of Balogh’s slow burn romances.  Her characters often have mature and unorthodox relationships. What I loved most about this book is that Anna and Avery are both kind.

Avery is a man who has made a facade for himself to mask his perceived weaknesses.  He is a quiet man, and I absolutely loved that he likes Anna from the beginning and doesn’t want her to change to become the stereotypical society lady. He loves seeing how she is an original. His support for Anna without taking a position on what she should do is deeply attractive.

Anna (aka Anastasia) is a good person. I just adored her when her reaction to finding out about her inheritance is dismay.  She would much prefer a family to money. Her efforts to build relationships demonstrate her gentle and kind nature.

These two people are so nicely matched.  The drama in the story really concerns all the disarray the family is sent into when Anna’s existence becomes known. Her recreation of her own identity is the focus of the book along with the romance.

I love the quiet romance present in this book.  The characters fall in love day by day, minute by minute. Their relation to one another is based on respect and honesty.

My one complaint is that the lack of any conflict between Anna and Avery makes their story resolved too quickly, but the story is worth it anyway.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book introduces lots of characters who have intriguing stories to tell.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SOMEONE TO LOVE is the first book Westcott series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars